Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lost in Translation

note: 20 April 2014:
Apparently the attribution of this poem to Pablo Neruda is false.  According to a 2008 article in la Repubblica, an Italian senator quoted it in session, and this brought the president of Neruda's Italian publisher to make a statement that this poem is not his.  It is apparently by Martha Medeiros, a Brazilian writer.  Due to this fact, I have edited my original post to replace her name where I had mistakenly credited Neruda.  My apologies to all, and my thanks to Dario Sorgato for having described the error.

I was just translating a poem for Amilynne. It's one that I have had my third year students memorize and it is fantastic-- Chi muore (Ode alla vita) by Pablo Neruda Martha Medeiros. I found this poem online, and the title of this post links to it in Italian. I have found about a zillion variations, but I like this one, and the site seems just as likely to house the right version as any. I have also looked for it in Spanish and in English, but I have been unable to find either, and since I have not found it in Spanish I wonder if it really is originally an Italian poem. Who knows.
Which really puts me in the mood to watch Il Postino.
Anyway, here is my translation to English for your enjoyment:

He who dies (Ode to life)
Pablo Neruda Martha Medeiros

Slowly dies he who becomes a slave to habit,
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.

Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
Slowly he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on is rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.

Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,

he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.

Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,

he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
Slowly he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.
Slowly he who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.

Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.

Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive
requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.

Only burning patience will bring
within reach a splendid happiness.


RnP said...
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RnP said...

"A morte devagar" this might help. Thank you for the poem.

RnP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.